Posted in: Opinion

Welfare War: GOP’s Campfield Advocates Starving Children With Bad Grades

welfare ban tennesee stacey campbell

A continuing push to stigmatize welfare recipients has taken a new and deplorable form in Tennessee, where State Rep. Stacey Campfield — author of the “don’t say gay” bill — has suggested that parents in families on assistance be held to a higher standard of academic excellence for their children, or face starvation.

Stacey Campbell has had it in for the poor and welfare recipients for some time, and has proposed drug testing measures in the past for those who get public assistance.

Masking his Jonathan Swiftian proposal as an initiative for “breaking the cycle of poverty,” Campbell opts to use hunger as a motivator rather than say, bolstering educational programs for at-risk or low-income Tennessean kids. The conservative lawmaker frames the myriad challenges facing financially strapped Americans as one of “accountability” rather than a years-long soft job market and skyrocketing living costs coupled with wages that have remained flat for decades.

According to Campbell, it’s simply a matter of watching their kids starve that will inspire the working poor — many of whom hold down two or three jobs and still qualify for assistance — and no educational or school-based initiatives would be a better approach than depriving already deprived children of basic nutritional sustenance.

The Tennessee lawmaker and welfare opponent writes:

“The third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents. We have done little to hold them accountable for their child’s performance. What my bill would do is put some responsibility on parents for their child’s performance.”

Campbell’s proposal is wracked with so many ignored factors it’s difficult to know where to start. Families on assistance may be more impacted, for instance, by the work involved with an undiagnosed special needs child, thereby reducing their flexibility in the workplace and limiting their ability to earn as much as they might if their child were not challenged.

Following on from that, kids on welfare are also more likely to live in single-parent households, one where one parent must earn all the money and do all the parenting. Holding these families to a higher standard of academic output when the deck is already stacked against them is not only mathematically a losing proposal, it’s downright cruel.


According to Campbell, the welfare sanction is about helping kids, not punishing parents — but it is difficult to see how that pans out in any meaningful way. The lawmaker claims:

“The goal is not to punish anyone. No one will necessarily or instantly lose benefits because of this bills passage. The goal is to encourage parents to do what they should already be doing. We have to start breaking the cycle of generational poverty.”

I’m not a lawmaker, an elected official or a sociologist, but I have never seen a study or data that suggests starvation, stigmatization or otherwise humiliating struggling families is a factor in “breaking the cycle of poverty.” Factoring in that poor families on welfare are already tasked with feeding, housing and educating children with limited resources, it seems a foregone conclusion academic excellence is just one area they will fall behind in, starving or not.

Education works. Consistent access to healthy food and positive reinforcement works. But, as Nashville Scene points out, you have to be several shades of gleefully sadistic to propose withholding food from children to motivate poverty stricken families to “do better.”

Jesus Christ under God's light.

The site says:

“Campfield’s nemeses are children. Literal, actual children. It’s no challenge for a 40-year-old man to defeat a kid. There’s no glory in it. You know what people think of a guy who has to win against kids? That he’s pathetic.”

The post continues:

“It’s worse than plotting against Smurfs. I mean, they’re small but at least they’re adults. It’s like Campfield looked around and said, ‘Hmm, I don’t want to piss off any lobbyists. Who can’t afford a lobbyist? Oh, right — poor kids. Great. I’ll try to find ways to make their lives worse.'”

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothersyou do unto me. — Some Longhair Hippie Socialist.

As the latest ridiculous welfare ban floated by Campbell (who actually, unironically claims to be a Christian) on the web, it seems apt to ask, who would Jesus starve? The little children?

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17 Responses to “Welfare War: GOP’s Campfield Advocates Starving Children With Bad Grades”

  1. Stacey Campfield

    First off let me say TANF benefits are NOT food stamps, housing vouchers or Obama phone credits. All funds saved will go back into the program to provide benefits to someone who can not get them now.

    Special needs or learning disabled are exempt from this bill.

    I am not re inventing the wheel. This is already being done in over 40 countries with positive results every where it is in place. Look it up.

    Here is a quote from the article linked below.

    "Most of our Fixes columns so far have been about successful-but-small ideas. They face a common challenge: how to make them work on a bigger scale. This one is different. Brazil is employing a version of an idea now in use in some 40 countries around the globe, one already successful on a staggeringly enormous scale. This is likely the most important government anti-poverty program the world has ever seen. It is worth looking at how it works, and why it has been able to help so many people."

    Here is the link for more.

    Sen. Stacey Campfield

  2. Tonya Waxman Samaniego

    When my daughter was in 2nd grade there was this little girl who was always late to school. no matter what the school staff tryed she still was late, the parents wouldn't let her ride the bus and always had an excuse. but when the parent was given a saturday detention (don't remember what would have happen if they didn't go) anyway the mom had to give up a whole saturday and after that the girl was on time. not a problem anymore..

  3. Kim LaCapria

    Sen. Campfield, thank you for your reply. I looked over that link last night when I visited your blog (below, the link, the one in your reply goes to the Opinionator page) and I will admit that I am personally unfamiliar with how poverty is addressed in Mexico and Brazil.

    I would say, however, America would be more analogous to countries in Europe in terms of living standard.

    What the link doesn't illustrate but seems to suggest is that these are incentive programs- and indeed, I would imagine that Americans would balk at giving people MORE for simply doing what most of us do as a daily thing.

    What also is not covered is whether the other 38 countries have universal healthcare in place. To wit, I was uninsured for a time and while my kids aren't massively special needs, they do have ADHD. Among other things, this means morning waking is sometimes hard. But without insurance, I was not able to get any official diagnosis, so their "special needs" would not have been on the record if I relied on a service like the ones you propose tying to attendance.

    It seems a great many factors like this could be at issue.

    We're discussing is removing needed services from the working poor because of attendance. It's not a bonus, it's the basic stuff they rely on- under the catchall of welfare- and while I am all for programs that help kids, I would also suggest if they live in poverty and aren't getting to school on time, this may not do all that much to help.

    My concern as a single parent myself is lack of resources for these families in Tennessee that could be affected if your proposal were implemented. While people assume single parenthood can be avoided, a lot of us have spouses that did not and do not contribute and we have to work more and do more with less time, money and space.

    To wit, sometimes limited resources befall people that make the same "good" choices everyone else did- college, marriage, career- and it seems that those people ALREADY have a lot working against them. Jobs are extremely scarce, and I am thankful every day to have one that allows me to care for my kids without expensive afterschool care costs sucking up half my income, personally. So I really relate to women who are in the situation where they cannot make ends meet – if I did not work at home, I would be unable to as well.

    Here is the link to the post Sen. Campbell references:

  4. Steph Bazzle

    I was set to give you all the chances, man, but you blew what credibility you had at 'Obama phone'.

    PS What do you think is apt to happen when the little boy whose grades lose his family their assistance comes home to that stereotypical fat, lazy, stupid, druggie welfare daddy y'all like to paint in everyone's minds? Anyone gonna feel guilty if daddy goes beyond a beating to a killing? Nah, that's two more off the welfare rolls, right? One in the ground and one in prison? Well, I guess prison is probably the most expensive kind of 'welfare', so not so much.

  5. Justin Hopkins

    Encouraging children to be better than their parents what a fantastic idea, parents encouraging there children to do better than them/ improve there quality of life in the future cannot see any wrong in that. Children's safety if they fail and parents beat them to death sounds more like a excuse. If research/Facts shows in many country that this actually works and improves the system why not take a step in the right direct. . How about all the families that are denied this service that would gladly do what is required of them. Do they not matter either, what gives one family over another family the right to these services like this. If the current welfare state isn't managed at all, and the doors are just opened up the welfare state would fail. Things just do not happen magically.

  6. Kim LaCapria

    Justin Hopkins That does not address the fact that we're not talking about 'encouraging' children, we are talking about punishing them if their PARENTS fail.

    If their parents already lack resources to feed or provide for them, chances are they will suffer, right?

    What gives one family "the right" is poverty. We don't allow other Americans, particularly kids, to starve to death.

  7. Jerry E Chadwell

    So Steph, you think, instead of trying something to get the endowment group to do better for THEMSELVES as opposed to keeping them "fat, lazy, stupid, druggie welfare daddy", and to keep them from killing their children (that most likely they only had in order to get a pay raise), you are for letting them continue to fail, generation to generation. Is that correct? That sure is what is seems you are saying.

  8. Ann Lewallen Sexton

    I am no liberal and I tend to support many Republican efforts even when they are not the most politically correct or socially popular, but I'm afraid that this time I simply find this a dangerous and hurtful bill. There does need to be more incentive for parents to do better by their children. There does not need to be excessive pressure forced on a child to support their family. Babies should not be forced into being the bread winners. Your bill is beyond horrific and, until I see some leg work from you reaching out to educators as well as the poor to see what needs to be done, I am inclined to not trust you. I hate to beat on a dead horse, Mr. Campfield, but you have recently done more to embarrass my district and religion than aid either. Tax breaks and spending cuts are not the only things we want from our leaders. We want to know you are going to take care of us and the most vulnerable members of society with respect and sympathy. I want to believe in you, Mr. Campfield, but I will not do so blindly.

  9. Molly Atkins

    Why on earth would we follow Brazil or Mexico as an example on working with our poor? Have you been to Latin America? Have you seen the disparity between the classes? Are you completely insane? Or simply evil?

  10. Sarah Reed

    Kim LaCapria The mother was not given detention, she had to give up a Saturday to take her child to detention–are you serious?

  11. Nancy Azzoopardi

    Mr. Campfiled, how does your proposal work for a family with a child that has an as yet undiagnosed learning disability? Or a family where one child is an over achiever but a sibling is struggling? What about children who have loving parents, but the child is dealing with bullying issues at school or on the way to school? What about the family where mom is going through cancer or another illness? So children are now going to be responsbilie for the financial assistance of their families? Do you have children? Do you know how many variables go into a child succeeding or even just getting by in school? Just so you know – my youngest child wasn't diagnosed with his learning disability until he was in 4th grade. So his inability to pass a test could have negatively impacted his family's financial situation and certainly would not have improved his family situation. Your proposal is ignorant of the way real FAMILIES live. Maybe you should get out more and talk to families actually on public assistance. You might find they are more responsbile then your misconceptions. By the way, my family is not public assistance and my husband is retired Air Force. My opinion is based on raising 4 very different children, including the one with a learning disability, with varying levels of motiviation and different temperments.

  12. Karma Thomas

    Hey…"Senator" You are a disgusting excuse for a human being to punish children for what YOUR wealthy backers have done to the poor in the last few decades. Not only have autism rates risen thanks to the GMO's your Koch sucker buddies are foisting on the public, now you want to penalize kids for problems with education? On TOP of their being poor and already at a disadvantage? YOU should probably go back to school and get you some of that edumacation, you ignorant jackass. Instead of increasing minimum wage so those parents wouldn't have to work so many jobs and COULD help their child improve, you do THIS? WTF IS YOUR PROBLEM? I DARE you to go live with a few of these so called lazy poor people and see if YOUR lazy stupid ignorant racist and DISGUSTING ass could keep up with what the poor have to deal with in their lives DAILY thanks to THUGS like you. You think you're better than them? I think you are a POS and I hope that you go to hell and suffer like thousands of children will because of your sanctimonious stupidity. Do you know hunger? Have you EVER known what it is to have to choose between feeding your child or yourself? Or buying food or paying the rent? Do you know what it's like to try to get ahead when dumbasses like you are everywhere, cutting them off at the knees every time they DO get a tiny bit ahead? WHAT kind of mother raised you? Did you HAVE a mother? SHE should be ASHAMED to have a child like YOU. Have you got children of your own? They must be SO proud of you…or they will be, when they understand the selfish ignorance that you display almost daily. Remember WHY when they look at you with hate and shame in their eyes, one day in the near future. IMAGINE them being denied food that YOU couldn't afford to give them. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL? I can't even imagine the audacity, the stupidity, the ignorance and the cold hearted ruthlessness that you have to have in your non existent mind to even CONSIDER this BULL. I HOPE YOU STARVE, long and slow, in the middle of a crowd of people who laugh at you every time you ask for food, you miserable excuse for humanity. Get the hell out of politics, Rethuglicans like you are the reason this country has become heartless and cruel, thanks to YOUR example. Go to hell. Just make sure you starve first.

  13. Tom Sawyer

    You sir, are a complete idiot. Your assault on the poor will surly earn you a top place in hell and I can only hope that the fires of hell torture you for eternity!

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